Nothing is fragile about NIN's industrial noise

By Michael D. Clark for Houston Chronicle on May 25, 2005

Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails, has officially become goth rock's first pin-up.

Dispensing with the theatrical shrouds and macabre film visuals of his epic tour in support of 1994's The Downward Spiral and the self-hating rock star fantasies of last album The Fragile, at Tuesday's sold-out show at the Verizon Wireless Theater Reznor's only prop was a newly chiseled body.

And for those more interested in the music, Reznor succeeded in making 90 minutes of industrial pop that is meant to be felt.

For his new release, With Teeth, Reznor finally figured out that he doesn't need to manufacture drama and tension on stage. If the music is worthy it will be created all on its own.

Reznor and his new band — guitarist Aaron North, keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, drummer Jerome Dillon and bassist Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson fans might know him better as Twiggy Ramirez) — served up a 19-song mix of hits and fan favorites that drew evenly from all four Nine Inch Nails studio albums and left the sweaty black- and leather-wearing crowd with little to pine for.

By the end, there was no need for a dramatic pause and encore, so the band rightly dispensed with it.

Reznor employed an aggressive approach from the outset opening with Terrible Lie, a fan favorite from the band's 1989 alterna-rock masterpiece Pretty Hate Machine.

The new material dovetailed nicely. You Know What You Are, with its corrugated guitar crunch, and The Line Begins to Blur are Teeth cuts that loyalists should commit to memory.

"Look at all the pigs," shouted Reznor at the crowd playfully to introduce past single March of the Pigs.

It was a call that sent Nine Inch Nails into a string of must-hear songs like Closer, Hurt and Head Like a Hole. The group also served up some angry non-album treasures like Suck and Burn. It was a wish list that made one wonder if Reznor had been sneaking peeks at NIN chat rooms to find out what die-hards most wanted to hear.

Older ballads like The Day the World Went Away, which once seemed lost to time, were among the set's most enduring songs.

After all this time Reznor's best prop is himself — an artist who plays his life's work as if he's in love with his creation.

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